An angry, overflow crowd of several hundred residents and community activists confronted a Fairfax County housing board last night to lobby against a plan to close all or part of the controversial Woodley-Nightingale Trailer Home Park.
Scores of speakers told the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority that converting the county-owned trailer park, which has a large number of low-income and elderly residents, into a commercial development would unfairly burden the 260 families there.
"Some if not all of us are going to lose the homes where we have lived and raised our families," said Peggy Bonnett, who has lived in the Rte. 1 park south of Alexandria for 10 years.
"Has the almighty dollar become so important that human life and welfare do not account for anything anymore?" Bonnett asked. "We are treated like third-class citizens who have the plague and who have to be wiped off the Rte. 1 corridor."
Fairfax officials said yesterday that converting all or part of Woodley-Nightingale to stores or offices is only one option for redeveloping the park. The fate of the trailer park is expected to be determined by the county Board of Supervisors this fall.
The housing authority took no vote on the Woodley-Nightingale alternatives last night. It will make a recommendation to county supervisors at a later meeting.
However, in announcing the proposal last month, county officials said that maintaining the park, which has been cited repeatedly for unsafe conditions, could cost $5.5. million. Officials said that by selling the park, the county could use the money to build more low-income housing elsewhere.
Residents complained last night that the county is breaking promises it made to renovate Woodley-Nightingale when it purchased the property in 1981 for about $7 million.
"We do not believe that the county can meet its commitment to develop low-income housing by selling off some of the few units we already have," said Lane Krahl, spokesman for the Mount Vernon United Methodist Church. "We should be looking for ways to improve these units, but instead the county appears to be looking for ways to dispose of them."
Hundreds of the Rte. 1 residents arrived at the hearing last night on chartered buses, which Supervisor T. Farrell Egge (R-Mount Vernon) said were paid for by the county.
Egge said he supports renovating Woodley-Nightingale without displacing residents. "Most of the people in Woodley-Nightingale will not be able to remain in Fairfax County if the park is not redeveloped," the supervisor told the housing authority.
Before the hearing, Egge said, "These people have been promised and promised and promised redevelopment of the park. The county has an obligation to renovate it for them."
Other officials who supported the Woodley-Nightingale residents included Virginia General Assembly members Sen. Joseph V. Gartlan (D-Fairfax County) and Del. Frank Medico (R-Fairfax County).